Tuesday, 24 March 2015

A prophet is not honoured in his own country

(First appeared in New Era 11 March 2015)

Today’s column heading comes from the Bible and is referenced in Mathew 13:57 – Then Jesus told them, "A prophet is honoured everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family."

The past week I was fortunate to visit Botswana for work-related activities. During my visit I was fortunate to visit various tourism establishments as well as the major shopping malls around the capital of Gaborone. This was also an opportunity to discuss with colleagues the differences between our two countries, as well as the “areas of quality” which we wish we had from our neighbour. The first topic was of course the cleanliness of our country and especially of Windhoek as the capital. The second, and surprising topic to me, was the respect our neighbours have for the service industry in Namibia. As this is one of the main reasons for this type of Consumer Court column, it was very intriguing to find out how they experience our service industry. The common variable among the compliments was the time it took to receive food at restaurants. In Namibia we tend to get a little bit irrational if our meals are not at our tables within 20 minutes of an order while in certain establishments in Gaborone it sometimes took as much as one hour.

All of us there agreed that we wished there was more Consumer Protection in our countries and we discussed our colleagues in South Africa with quite a bit of envy. It was therefore very gladdening to my heart to receive an envelope with an invitation for the Ministry of Trade and Industry to attend a “Workshop on the Development of a Legal Framework for Consumer Protection in Namibia”

The workshop, which will be attended by key stakeholders, will be setting the “parameters of the legal and policy content for Namibia’s current efforts. The participants will also consider the structure and substance of the Draft Policy and Legislation to ensure coherence between the draft framework and the consumer environment in Namibia.”

Looking through the agenda for the two day workshop, I am glad to see that the Ministry is looking at all aspects proposed by consumer activists of the past nine years. However, when reading the invitation letter I noticed that invitation letter had a BIG mistake in its layout. It seems some administrative error had crept in between the signing of the letter and the photocopies that were prepared for individual participants. The first page was correctly addressed to each participant, but the second page repeated the last two sentences of the previous page. This “copy and paste” exercise will hopefully not be the manner in which we are approaching the consumer protection act.

After all, to quote myself from a column written on 28 February 2013: “…Three years ago, on March 15 2010 (World Consumer Day), the then Minister of Trade and Industry Dr Hage Geingob, promised in a speech read on his behalf that a Consumer Protection Act will be submitted to Parliament within one year. Since then Dr Geingob has moved on to become Prime Minister and is poised to become our next President in 2015. With Consumer Day again being celebrated on March 15 this year, there is however still no sign of the promised Consumer Protection Act (CPA).”
Hopefully this proposed workshop will see us bringing the legislation to light within the foreseeable future.

For your information, consumer organisations have decided to make helping consumers choose healthy diets the theme of World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) on March 15.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate our President, H.E. Pohamba, on being honoured with the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. Not only has he been honoured as a leader abroad, but our own people have to recognised and thank him for his leadership at the helm of our beloved land.

“I am writing this just to ask if, as I am a consumer, is it correct to pay N$1.00 for a trolley as practiced by Checkers if you are shopping in Checkers?” This is not good customer service and the consumer should show their displeasure by shopping elsewhere.

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